Jan. 31--The Legislature probably thought former governor and mass transit enthusiast Michael S. Dukakis would be thrilled when state reps voted unanimously to honor him by renaming Boston's venerable South Station after him.
But the idea of the "Gov. Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center" had the Duke steaming yesterday.
"Boy, when they start naming things for you, you know you're on your way out. Let me tell you, I'm 80 and I feel 20," said Dukakis, claiming yesterday's phone call from the Herald was the first he'd even heard of the homage, which was tucked in a $12 billion transportation bond bill.
Dukakis, reached at his home in Los Angeles, where he and former Massachusetts first lady Kitty have wintered for two decades, stated emphatically he has "never" wanted anything in the city named after him -- least of all the 115-year-old rail terminal where one of his biggest hopes and dreams fell short of fruition.
"This opens up a whole set of problems. I am not in favor of this," groused the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee and former vice chairman of Amtrak's Reform Board.
That is, unless it's attached to something he really wants.
Some 23 years after leaving the State House, Dukakis readily admits he's still stricken with tunnel vision -- that is, his vision for a one-mile underground tunnel linking South Station to North Station, and by extension, connecting southeastern Massachusetts and southern New England with New Hampshire, Maine and Canada.
"I'd be happy to have my name attached to the North-South rail link and whatever South Station building is attached to that," he proposed.
Dukakis, whose administration rescued South Station from pigeons and water leaks and restored it to its current grandeur, said of his long-dreamed-of rail link, "There's a new guy in town and his name is Marty Walsh, and he's a big supporter of this. There's big reasons for doing this.
"If you build it, you could take 60,000 cars off the road," Dukakis said. He noted it would take workers north of Boston directly to job opportunities in the burgeoning Innovation District.
"The present situation makes about as much sense as stopping the Red Line at South Station and starting it up again at Kendall. It makes no sense. We're just talking a mile for God's sake. This is not the Big Dig. It's a single tunnel," he said.
Since the transportation bill still has to be passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, Dukakis, a professor of public policy at Northeastern University, isn't worried about an awkward ribbon-cutting ceremony any time soon.
"Kitty and I will be back when the magnolias bloom on Commonwealth Avenue," Dukakis said. "It's 63 degrees here. What can I tell you? Life is good."
Copyright 2014 - Boston Herald